The Suicide Squad (2021) Review
After the disastrous release of 2014's Suicide Squad the tenacious folks at DC and Warner Bros decided to take another crack at handling their Comic based intellectual property this time, instead of David Ayer returning for the sequel, its Guardians of the Galaxy Director, James Gunn's turn at bat. And man does he have a mean swing!
The Suicide Squad reunites a few familiars like Amanda Waller, Rick Flagg, Captain Boomerang and everyone's favorite mad muse, Harley Quinn for yet another dangerous mission called "Project Starfish," A tower that houses a humongous alien Starfish. DC fans know exactly who I'm referring to.
But things are not as simple as it seems.
As soon as our heroes, or rather "Antiheroes " reach the island of Corto Maltese (A fictional South American island for those familiar with the DC Universe's mythology.) and shit gets real during a scene almost reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan's assault on Omaha Beach, full of blood, gore and of course, Gunn's signature humor. By the way, that's just the prologue!Gunn doesn't waste any time, pushing certain characters out of the way, to make room for new entries, that had me somewhat shocked at who gets offed! And the quirky intro, " People who Died" was a great callback to 2004's Dawn of the Dead which Gunn was responsible for the screenplay and of course, Directed by Zac Snyder, who as a matter of fact, is the producer of The Suicide Squad. Think of it as a reunion of sorts.
The prologue served as the appetizer as the main narrative begins with Waller coercing criminal Bloodsport to lead the new Suicide Squad with a more colorful lineup: Peacemaker, Ratcatcher, Nanuae aka King Shark, and Polka-dot Man?? Well, I did mention that the team is "colorful".
Where many sequels or rather "sequoots” as in a sequel and a reboot fail, The Suicide Squad shows plenty of promise courtesy of performances by Idris Elba, Margot Robbie and Wrestling icon, John Cena as Peacekeeper. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention Sylvester Stallone's voiceover as Nanuae, who is possibly DC's answer to Marvel Cinematic Universe's Hulk or Drax.
Watching the rivalry and banter between Bloodsport and Peacemaker during the earlier parts of "Squad " had me imagining a spinoff series between those two, however, things take a brutal turn during the 3rd act and while I won't reveal any spoilers, suffice to say that "someone" will have his own spin-off in the near future.Robbie's Harley Quinn has her shining moments that is more memorable than the first Suicide Squad movie and 2020's Birds of Prey for that matter. Aside from her comedic banter, Quinn is like a one Man..I meant, Woman who delivers a severe bodycount, as she brutally dispatches her captors.While newcomer, Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher whose abilities are talking to the Rats, serves as the heart of the team akin to Guardians of the Galaxy's Groot.Gunn even managed to squeeze in Polka Dot Man’s tragic backstory, where he has serious Mommy issues begins as an ongoing gag, yet his contempt for his mother is self-explanatory as the story further develops. In some unexpected meta, Polka Dot Man is codified as this LGBTQ symbol whether his illuminating multicolored powers are some Rainbow flag manifestation, or how he expressed his affections for the ill-fated Milton. David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight) does an impeccable job as the maudlin Polka-Dot Man who aspires to become a Superhero.
The Needledrops as with the previous Suicide Squad, were sporadic and while some worked i.e. Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and during Harley's escape, ("Just a Gigolo") others had me reaching for the earplugs like "Rain " during one scene indicative of an annoying trope that is commonplace in today's ensemble Action/Superhero movies.
As for the cinematography itself, there are a few cool scenes when utilizing RED Digital cameras in turn, producing amazing visceral aesthetics. l was also impressed by the clever use of chapter title cards for each segment. Some were hidden within the backdrop while others appeared in objects or just blatantly out of nowhere as in a videogame inspired "Boss battle" towards the finale.
There was a part of me was hoping Bloodsport would pull a sleight of hand ala Escape from New York’s Snake Plissken, towards the end of the film, but that wouldn't work for his backstory when you factor in his daughter being used as a bargaining tool in Amanda Waller's favor. The payback was lightweight and self-serving compared to what Plissken, who himself is the progenitor of Suicide Squad’s premise, would do. And what is up with both Squad movies having the Black protagonists having "Daddy issues"? My observation has nothing to do with accusatory sentiments of racism, but instead a critique of lazy implementation as in "been there, done that. “
Another gripe is why hasn’t Gunn improve Waller’s appearance since everything was atypical when compared to the first Suicide movie? Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller looks as if she was filming the movies, back-to-back and in my opinion, she’s an attractive actress who doesn’t have to be uglied down. Shit, Pam Grier, and later Cynthia Adilson portrayed Waller without the need for the Comic’s archetype conventions. Where’s the progression on Davis’ behalf? At least, the “Office Deadpool” scene, where Waller’s staff bets on who lives and who dies, was both nuanced, and fucked up at the same time.
While many would be so quick to compare SS to GOTG, that would be somewhat presumptuous as it’s an entirely different beast altogether that even manages to further distance itself from the first movie.
The Suicide Squad delivers a rich blend of dark comedy and drama that is unapologetically violent and at times, exploitative. It eschews the previous entry without any remorse whatsoever, but that's what many come to expect when the Studios gives a nutjob like James Gunn, the keys to the Asylum. It has emotional depths when you see how the protagonists interact with one another, yet batshit in all its brilliance! If there was ever a more faithful adaptation, this might do the trick. With creative liberties of course.
Gunn comes out blazing but WB is biting the bullet!
Ok, to explain the twisted history of The Suicide Squad is rather “complicated”.
With my review out of the way, we gotta address the Elephant or rather, the 200 lb Man-Shark in the room. A few years back, Mike Cernovich a far right Media Persona douchebag, had unearthed some disturbing Tweets posted by James Gunn who was another vocal critic of Donald Trump, that was from over Ten years ago. Said Tweets were mostly jokes done in very poor taste.
Although they have been long deleted, “someone” took it upon themselves to do some serious data mining so lo and behold, Gunn's spiral to shame and downfall....well, not really. While Disney, the parent company of Marvel Studios immediately dropped Mr. Gunn despite support from Guardians of the Galaxy costars, Warner Brothers made the now notorious Gunn, an offer he shouldn't refuse!
Gunn accepted the offer to take over the reins of Suicide Squad despite the negative backlash from the first film, for some reason, DC/WB decided to take another crack at handling the property. So fast forward to today where Gunn’s Suicide Squad has earned critical praise with a “Certified Fresh” rating of 94 percent score from Rotten Tomatoes however, despite Gunn’s victory lap, the marathon is far from over as the weekend Box Office take is less than favorable with a dismal intake of 25 Million during its 3-day premiere. Of course, this can be attributed to the Delta variant that has crushed the motion picture industry, leaving home streaming via HBO MAX as an alternative. It’s both a bold and very risky business venture on WarnerMedia’s behalf, where subscribers can easily forgo seeing the movies in the theaters when having the option to watch it at home. On the surface, its about safety however underneath, people prefer the convenience of watching a movie at home and technically, for free.
This may really impact WB’s purses and how they may reconsider the same day streaming plan. However, if the HBO MAX “Master” Streaming plan adds more subscribers gaining a foothold against competitors like Disney Plus which charges $29.99 for their Premier Access, or Netflix, Warner Bros may see this as a victory, a pyrrhic victory no less, but still a win in their favor. Here’s the tally so far.
- The Suicide Squad (WB) 4,002 theaters, Fri $12.1M, 3-day: $25.7M-$27M/Wk 1
- Jungle Cruise (Disney) 4,310 theaters, Fri $4.46M (-67%)/ 3-day $14.86M (-57%)/Total: $64.4M/Wk 2
- Old (Uni) 3,138 theaters (-241), Fri $1.2M (-44%)3-day $3.8M (-44%)/Total: $38.2M/Wk 3
- Black Widow (Disney) 3,100 theaters (-260)/Fri $1.12M (-44%) 3-day $3.59M (-45%)/Total $173.9M/Wk 5
- Stillwater (Focus) 2,611 theaters (+80), Fri $770K (-59%)/3-day $2.4M (-54%)/Total: $9.5M/ Wk 2
- The Green Knight (A24) 2,798 theaters (+8) Fri $760K (-74%)/3-day $2.3M (-66%)/Total $11.9M/Wk 2